Wednesday, July 11, 2007

May 2007 - Mount Etna, Sicily - Europe's Largest Volcano

Mount Etna which measures over 10,000 feet at its peak is Europe's largest volcano. We took a bus ride to the base and then hopped into some rugged jeeps that took us nearly to the peak. This is an amazing experience which should not be missed by anyone visiting Sicily.
We started our trip in a tour bus and through the windshield we could see Mount Etna's snowy top in the distance.
We made a pit stop at the village of Zafferana Etnea that lies about half way up the volcano. Here we can see the lava tracks from the 2001 eruption. Lucky for the residents of this small town, Mount Etna is a wide volcano with a shallow slope. Therefore, the lava rolls down very slowly, so slowly that photographers walk in front of it while snapping pictures. As the lava flowed in 2001 and again in 2002, the residents attempted to build concrete walls to protect their homes but these walls proved to be no match for the molten lava.
We made a second stop at about 3,000 feet where you can see some inactive craters. These craters are weak spots in the side of the mountain that allow for the release of molten magma during an eruption. This allows the volcano to release pressure without blowing its top in a cataclysmic eruption like Mount Vesuvius. These craters which exist all over Etna make this volcano much safer to live near.

From here we rode jeeps up the side of the volcano. You can see that the black lava rock is covered with ice. The black and white contrast is an impressive sight.

We reached a crater near 10,000 feet which is inactive but continues to realease steam seen as the clouds behind us.
Then the jeeps took us to the top of the volcano; we were only about 600 ft from the peak.

From here we were able to climb into some steaming craters. As you can see the winds were very strong at the temperatures hit about 40 degrees plus wind chill.

We basically had to climb in the craters for warmth.

I also enjoyed the facial, even if the sulphur smell was overwhelming.

After coming out of the crater, we had to dry off. The steam had left us damp.

We then walked around the peak and looked at all of the small craters and crevices all releasing hot steam. There were no eruptions while we were on or near Mount Etna, but we could feel the molten magma gurgling beneath the surface.

At sunset, we headed down the volcano in the jeeps and we stopped for some beautiful sunset views of the Etna's peak.

Then we looked down at the black lava rock road ahead of us and the smoldering craters around us. We both agreed it's the closest we've ever been to visiting the moon.

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